Thursday, September 18, 2008

I've been bitten..... a writing bug. (I hope this one never stops itching.)

For my own benefit, and also for possible feedback from others, I am going to post a list of different Writing Forums that I am looking into. The impulsive side of me would just jump right in and register to all of them....but I'm already having a hard time keeping up with my email. (Not to mention this blog, which is my current writing priority.)

I'm not limiting myself to only one, there are different writing forums with different purposes, but I want to make sure I don't join one that will just be me overextending myself without any added benefit or growth potential in my writing.

One I've already decided on, but it's a little bit different from just a writing forum. My friend Tim Nichols introduced me yesterday to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I have to say I'm rather anxious to try it. Hence.... I'm starting to gear up for that and hopefully find an even better way to motivate myself to start writing even more than I am right now. (Which I know, isn't saying a whole lot, but you have to admit, I'm doing better keeping this blog up than I did all summer!)

Actually, last night when I couldn't sleep, (isn't such a strange thing for me unfortunately,) I took the insomniac opportunity to do a little writing and was pleasantly surprised with the beginnings of a story I ended up coming up with. I'm not going to share it here, this isn't really a "story" blog, but I do want to find a place where I can continue to delve into that genre and hopefully get some feedback as well. (Keeping up more than one blog is proving a little too difficult for me.)

But anyway, I might as well stop explaining myself and get to it.

~ NaNoWriMo

~ Writing Forums

~ Writer's Beat Forums

~ Writing.Com

~ LiteraryMary

~ Access for Writers by UniqueCritique

~ Faith Writers

~ Christian Writers

~ Edit Red

~ The Next Big Writer

~ Toasted Cheese

~ Forward Motion

~ Great Writing

~ InkSpot

Well...I think that's a good enough list for now. As I do more research into each site, (not too extensive, just poking around to see what the offerings are,) I'll probably edit this post to jot down my thoughts; what the pros and cons of each site are. And again, if anyone has any feedback about any of these sites through either using them yourself, word of mouth, or looking them over, please feel free to share.

Alright, off to do research!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fantasy, Fable, Foibles, Freedom

Which stories are the best? Those where you find yourself wishing the world it brings you to is real, or those that are so real you're thankful it's just a story?

I want to live vicariously through my writing. I realized that tonight. I don't want to do anything drastic in my writing of course.

I want to pretend I live in a mansion, and my closest friends are the little people that live under the floor boards and mine out the agates from under the house.

I want to travel the world as a waitress on a cruise line, meeting new people and unattached and focused on whoever and whatever God sets before me.

I want.....

I want to create worlds different from the one I live in, without the troubles I face, but new troubles invented that I can - from this objective seat - see the exact course that must be taken.

But who would want to read something like that? How would I not get tired of writing that?

I don't know the answers to these questions. I just need to write.

Encouragement through music

Hopefully, if I'm not too tired, I'll be able to write a real post later tonight when I get back from a Bible study.

Before I leave though, I want to share a video of something encouraging and/or funny. I haven't done that in a while.

One Good Song

Tim Hawkins on Church

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bitterness and Healing

The last few days have been very busy, as between Friday and Saturday, I worked a total of nineteen and a quarter hours. 13 of those hours were on Friday. Yes. I'm not exaggerating. When I got home from work around 10:20 last night, my feet were so sore I felt like there were tacks stuck into my heels.

Oh well, I'll get a good paycheck next Friday.

Anyway, I feel like my thoughts are still rather scattered, but not quite as bad as when I last wrote. Went to church this morning, and the service was very encouraging. The pastor there has been doing a series called "Encountering God in the Psalms." The text today: Psalm 73. The question: Where is God When Life is Unfair?

I felt the message today was pretty appropriate for what I've been dealing with lately, as I've been struggling with finding contentment with where I'm at right now as a whole. Yes, I know that I'm very fortunate and that life is good and that God is providing for everything I need, but that's just the theology of the situation; what I know in my head to be true. Sometimes my experience isn't very supportive of my theology. Actually, the contridiction of theology and experience was the first thing touched on in the message today. (Kinda cool how I worked that in there, huh?) ;)

Here's the text of Psalm 73 first of all.

Psalm 73, a Psalm of Asaph NLT

Truly God is good to Israel,
to those whose hearts are pure.
But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
My feet were slipping, and I was almost
For I envied the proud
when I saw them prosper despite their
They seem to live such painless lives;
their bodies are so healthy and strong.
They don't have troubles like other people;
they're not plagued with problems like
everyone else.
They wear pride like a jeweled necklace
and clothe themselves with cruelty.
These fat cats have everything
their hearts could ever wish for!
They scoff and speak only evil;
in their pride they seem to cursh others.
They boast against the very heavens,
and their words strut throughout the
And so the people are dismayed and
drinking in all their words.
"What does God know?" they ask.
"Does the Most High even know what's
Look at these wicked people -
enjoying a life of ease while their riches

Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?
Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?
I get nothing but trouble all day long;
every morning brings me pain.
If I had really spoken this way to others,
I would have been a traitor to your people.
So I tried to understand why the wicked
But what a difficult task it is!
Then I went into your sanctuary, O God,
and I finally understood the destiny of the
Truly, you put them on a slippery path
and send them sliding over the cliff to
In an instant they are destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors.
When you arise, O Lord,
you will laugh at their silly ideas
as a person laughs at dreams in the

Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
and I was all torn up inside.
I was so foolish and ignorant -
I must have seemed like a senseless animal
to you.
Yet I still belong to you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow
but God remains the strength of my heart,
he is mine forever.

Those who desert him will perish,
for you destroy those who abandon you.
But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter,
and I will tell everyone about the
wonderful things you do.

In the past, when I read Psalms such as this one, I never really understood them. To be honest, I avoided them or skipped over the depressing parts to get to the encouraging stuff. In the last few years however I've been beginning to appreciate them. Yes, the writers of the Psalms were writing through the ispiration of the Holy Spirit. But they were still human! This Psalm in particular is a depictment of the the writer's despair, and it's emotionally hard to read. But the Bible, as always, is brutally honest. It deals with the hard questions. God wants us to ask the questions we have. Why? Because he's big enough to encompass our doubt and give us peace! Because he wants the chance to prove to us his love, strength and desire to care for us. (Starting with and especially through what he's already done.)

Looking at all the "depressing" verses, one is usually inclined to read them from the same viewpoint as the writer. However, when it comes to many of the characteristics of the wicked, most of them can unfortunately be applied to believers as well as unbelievers. It might not be the most enjoyable thing in the world to realize one can at times act like a "fat cat," however I believe it can be ultimately very beneficial when reading verses like these to ask ourselves - What about me? Do I have an overgrown sense of entitlement? Do I think I'm not getting what I deserve from God? Do I see others getting unfair "privileges"? Better yet, instead of asking myself, I need to be asking my Father these questions. I'm pretty sure he can reveal the truth to me a little bit better than I can. (My overgrown sense of entitlement might prevent me from discerning the truth if I just ask myself.)

Back to the writer though. Through his viewpoint, he found bitterness growing in his heart as he focused on what was wrong in the world. Discovering the bitterness he is dismayed before the Lord, likening himself to a "senseless animal." From experience, I know that when one has bitterness growing in their heart, almost any behavior becomes possible. When one is cynical about the future and their hope is being siffoned away from them, losing sight of what really matters, the importance of sharing joy with others - of even enjoying the Father's joy oneself - will be forgotten. The more bitter a person is, the more confused their thinking will become. Bitterness leads to cynicism; cynicism leads to seperation and relational hardships; relational seperation produces brokeness.

Realizing that bitterness can lead to brokeness is important, because I know that I often don't remember that bitterness is a wound that God wants to heal. And when considering that, it is a blessing to realize that even bitterness can be used by God in a person's life for good. The writer in the Psalm realizes the bitter root in his heart, and through his response to the Lord - surrendering to his council and recognizing his love and provision - he was brought into greater joy and peace as he grew closer to God through the healing.

When we recognize that we have allowed the affliction of bitterness and cry out to the Father for discerment and healing, the Lord gives us understanding that brings so many other issues to light. Yes, there are those who are wicked and ignore the power of God. But gaining a right understanding of the root of their behavior through God's eyes is what prevents the bitterness from taking hold. (Our culture is not a lense through which to read the Bible. The Bible is the lens through which to view and understand our culture.)

Understanding rebellion changes everything. Understanding the Cross changes everything. Understanding eternity changes everything. Everything is broken without God.

Where does this understanding come from? The writer goes into the sanctuary, and then he gains discernment. We know that the sanctuary was the Temple in the time the Psalms were written, but what is the sanctuary today? The building where you meet on Sundays? No. The sanctuary is where God dwells. The sanctuary is the church - the people. Every child of God is indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Our indwelling is the sanctuary.

I love the way the Psalm ends. "But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do." The writer realized earlier in the Psalm how wrong and damaging it would be to share his discouraging and bitter thoughts with others, God's people especially. Of course, he does ultimately share his bitter thoughts, but only when accompanied by the understanding God gave him through the healing of his bitterness. And now his only desire is to be near God! And the only words coming off his tongue are those of praise and wonder at the wonder of the Father.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cleaning Out the Cobwebs

Yes, usually people clean out cobwebs during spring cleaning, but I don't think I should put off updating my blog 'til next spring.

Well, where to start?

I've missed writing, and I think my frustrations are largely to do with being unable to do anything about a lot of them. Or at least, not seeing a solution to my problems. I don't want that to keep me from writing though.

Life, God, family, everything is good right now for the most part. I'm so thankful for everything God has been bringing me through and everything he has taught me in the last few months. This summer has been quite eventful, and the departure of the season is leaving me eager to see what autumn, winter, and the next year will bring.

Christopher is wonderful, and our relationship has continued to grow despite the distance we're still struggling to cope with. Actually, I think the distance has helped us to grow closer together than we would have grown in 4 months while living in the same city. We appreciate each other and treasure the time we get to spend together so much more since we get it in so limited amounts. I know that long-distance relationships aren't for everyone, because they are so hard, but I can see God's hand in our circumstances in being apart and I know that this distance is fulfilling a purpose God has for us. I'm not at all sure what it is at this point, but I do know that we grow closer everyday. We love each other more everyday. I can't wait to move to Iowa and be close to Christopher, but I am content with where God has us right now, and I am so thankful for the relationship God is creating between us.

I've also been blessed this summer by meeting many new believers that God has placed into my life and life of our family. I've been attending the Vineyard church here in Duluth, and I've really enjoyed the small group Bible study I've been going to. The fellowship has been so encouraging; to be able to spend time again with other believers so intent on understanding the Word and what God's will is for them. I've met some really good friends through all this, and I'm very thankful for the prayers and encouragment they offer me and I'm able to offer them. There is nothing quite like the Body of Christ living and working together in the love of our Father.

There have been a lot of changes in my life this summer. I'm having to make so many decisions about the future, and I've really been tested in whether or not I trust that God can take care of me and that He has a perfect plan already set out for the treading of my trusting feet. One event kinda brought all that to a head in early August, when my best friend got married. Emily is the first of the girls I grew up with to get hitched, and I am so happy and thankful that she asked me to be a part of that special day with her. The wedding was beautiful and so encouraging, but it also kinda scared me. I'm growing up, I've crossed over the threshold of adulthood. I know I still have a lot of growing up to do, but life sometimes has a way of catching up with and knocking the wind out of us before we know what's really going on. With Christopher in my life, the way now has a definite focus, but it's opened up so many more possiblities and paths that it's still just as confusing. I can't wait to see what God does though, I know he has something wonderful planned for me and Christopher.

I'm having a hard time focusing on one thing right now, I just needed to get writing again. In the last three weeks both Wayne Jacobsen and Tim Nichols came to visit my family and the little community of believers we're in, and - in their own ways - both encouraged me to continue to write. I'll be writing more about their visits later, but I'd just like to thank both of them for the fellowship and encouragment and joy they shared with us while visiting.

A while ago a friend gave me a huge writer's handbook/guidebook kind of thing, and in the back there was a huge long list of different magazines of all kinds that accepted freelance submissiongs. One that I found and am very interested in seeing if I can submit articles to is called Devozine, a branch of The Upper Room - a devotional magazine. Devozine is just like the Upper Room, except it's for teenagers and written by teenagers and adults who care about teenagers. I have several devotional ideas based on the upcoming themes they have announced, and once I finish them and mail them in I'll post them here. The only hard part is that they have to be between 150-250 words. In case you haven't noticed, when I do write, I write a lot. Cutting the articles down and still maintaining the flow is what I'm having a hard time with.

Later I want to write some responses to the books I've read and finished so far this summer.

Ok, I think I've given myself enough prods and reminders to continue writing. See you tomorrow.